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When used for digital compensator implementation, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) allow the use of a short sampling period, and of a customized fixed-point hardware definition wherein each coefficient and each state variable may be represented using a different number of bits. A methodology is presented based on the control system L1 or l1 norms for computing the appropriate number of bits to represent each quantity. The methodology is shown to be effective for designing hardware for both traditional shift-form and delta-form representations of the compensator. The methodology is applied to the implementation of a magnetic bearing control system. In this example, a delta-form realization requires less hardware than a shift-form realization, and provides a closer approximation to the original analog compensator. The results show that the methodology is useful for the comparison of competing digital compensator structures.